Years ago, I dated a woman whose grandmother made a habit of giving her family the most peculiar gift each Christmas.
She gave everyone underwear.
I know what you're thinking, so go ahead... say it: "That's not so peculiar."
No, it isn't. One might say it's practical, thoughtful, or maybe even sweet... unless you were the boyfriend of her grand-daughter opening a new pack of tighty-whities in front of her entire family - including the extended family (all of whom you've just met)... and since they all know what will be in their grandmother's gift-boxes, they make a big show of having you open yours first.
"Uhm... [...grin...] ...I guess word gets around about what's in my dresser?"
I don't wear tighty-whities.
They weren't even close to being my size.
They were one of those overpriced brands of spectacularly drab underwear nobody actually buys.
...and that was the point.
Some people don't just suffer through Black Friday shopping; they actually enjoy it. Other people enjoy shopping on December 26th. I have to admit, I enjoy both, so I found it oddly charming when my girlfriend, her brother and I all headed to the mall to exchange our underwear for better underwear on the busiest shopping day for returns.
Sure, we could have exchanged the underwear for anything, but part of the family tradition was exchanging it for skivvies of one's choosing.
In the end, the gift was practical, thoughtful, maybe even sweet and definitely fun.
The only reason any of us exists is because, at some point roughly nine months before each of our birthdays, a woman gave a man the gift of her body, and shortly thereafter, he gave her baby-maker a few squirts of his man-goo.
Life is a gift. That's what everyone says, right? Well then tell me what fucking store I get to take my childhood back to because I'd like to make an exchange.
"Hi. I'm sorry, but this 1983 isn't my size. It's a bitter, but I'm a happy. Oh, and here's a 1987. Geez, I don't know what's wrong with it, but damn, look at it. It's just messed up."
The saleswoman replies: "I'm sorry sir, but I can't help you with that. You can only exchange unused years." And then, while holding up a battered 1984 she says "Maybe you can regift this? It's what everybody does, you know."
Most people take their pasts and their problems and they pass it all on. A bad childhood becomes a white-elephant gift someone else gets stuck with. "Mommy did pills and that's why I do heroin." Fuck that. "Dad hit mom so now I hit you." Fuuuuck THAT!
Here's the one I've seen a few times too many: A bad relationship with some other guy becomes the gift a woman wants to give me. He didn't love her enough so now she won't be able to trust me enough. He couldn't commit to her, so now she won't be able to commit to me. He abused her so now she won't be comfortable with me even touching her.
Fuck. That. Too.
Every day, we have the opportunity to try on the future and ask "Do I like this? Does it fit?" If so... enjoy it. Cherish it. Celebrate it. If not, choose something else.
Every day is December 26th.
The mantra of holiday shopping is "Would you like a gift receipt with that?"
"Yes, I would like a gift receipt" says the bad husband who doesn't know what to get his wife, so he chooses items based on price and labels. To him, giving a Christmas present is actually a form of gift-card lotto. "If she likes it, I'm a genius. If she doesn't, it's $75 worth of something else at her favorite store." Good enough, eh?
I wonder if his wife would like a gift receipt for the next ten years with that shmuck. You can only exchange the years in advance - or so I am told.